"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Pain of Ignoring Paine: The Loss of American Freedom

American society is in trouble.

To some, that statement will be too nebulous and unclear, so let it be restated with greater specificity and deeper clarity. If you are an American, your customary way of living is ending.

The United States federal government has taken on the unauthorized role of provider for the American people. Big government's goal is that nobody be in need. American society is now enslaved to a government that is ensuring that this goal is met. Government has become America's god, and American society is no longer free.

In a free society necessity is the mother of invention, but in an enslaved society, necessity marries politicians and their offspring are indolence and dependence.

Financial equality is the myth of a crumbling society. The myth makers (politicians) may have good intentions, but their principles are wrong. When government takes upon itself the stated goal of income equality by ensuring everyone has a house, everyone has health care, everyone has financial hope, everyone is as comfortable and financially secure as their neighbor, the myth makers forcibly and artificially reverse the common sense roles of society and government.

The Common Sense of Thomas Paine

American colonists experienced the pain of big government in the 1760's and 1770's when England's dictatorial monarchy demanded American colonists be taxed in order to support the needs of the people of England. Many Americans were ambivalent to the idea of revolting against their government until a fellow by the name of Thomas Paine wrote and published a little pamphlet called Common Sense in 1776. George Washington wrote to a friend and said, "I find that Common Sense is working a powerful change in the minds of many..." 

Thomas Paine showed Americans the difference between society and government, and encouraged the reader never to confuse the two. He wrote:
"SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins."
So too, today, many Americans have little understanding of the differences between society and government. Government is not society, nor is society the government.  Unfortunately, convoluting and confusing the two is a source of enormous pain. Paine gives a few of the differences between society and government:
"Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher."
Catch what Paine is saying. Government is not intended to be the provider of wants; rather, government is always intended to be the punisher of the evil doer in society. Society is designed to be the provider, supporter and contributor to the wants of the individual. Paine next tells a story of a few isolated people living in a far away wilderness without government. Paine explains that the people find it easier to live together rather than apart; thus, a society is created. As this society grows, however, problems arise because of the wickedness within individuals. The society meets to make regulations in order to mitigate the problems. As the society continues to grow, a government becomes necessary to enforce these regulations, which in time become laws. Soon, there are so many people within the society that they cannot all gather in one place to make the laws, so they begin holding elections. This process, Paine argues, is the best balance between government and society. Society is responsible for the wants of people, government is responsible for the punishment of evil doers within society. This, according to Paine, is common sense. Paine summarizes his views on the limitations of government with these words:
"Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. Freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and reason will say, 'tis right.
The term "big government" is too innocuous. Just because something is big doesn't mean it's bad. Big government, however, is worse than bad; it's evil. When government ascends to society's god, the plea of its citizens becomes, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Government assumes the role of supplier and provider for bread, capital, health care, and other needs of its citizens to ensure fairness and equality.

When this happens, a free society comes to an end. People are enslaved to the government's idea of equity. What most Americans don't realize is the cost of forced equity is personal liberty. In America where government has become god, you will find you cannot worship as you please; you cannot work as you please; you cannot save as you please; you cannot give as you please; you cannot live as you please. Everything about your life as an American is becoming controlled by the god of American government.

This is why your life is changing as an American. You are no longer free. You are no longer secure. Government has usurped the role of society.

We are now experiencing the pain of ignoring Paine.


Christiane said...

some reflections:

the question I have about 'entitlements' is how are they to be defined in our wealthy nation ?

corporate benefits in tax breaks are huge, and so are their profits;
the rich are shielded by thousands of special interest tax breaks and their accountants are able to save them 'every penny' that the law allows, all very legal (all very moral???);
a 'dancing horse' brings a legal seventy thousand dollar tax break per year to a multi-millionaire presidential candidate;
and so-called 'job creators' are given legal tax breaks although no jobs were forth-coming for a ten year period when massive profits were often squirreled away in off-shore tax sheltered accounts by the millions. . . all documented

in truth, what are the REAL 'entitlements' and who are the real beneficiaries in our nation ???

the poor have few to speak on their behalf, but now among us a group has arisen that targets them as THE 'problem'

do the poor among us make us at uncomfortable?
I most certainly hope so, for they too are also human beings 'fearfully and wonderfully made' by God their Creator, and they too are our brothers:


Wade Burleson said...


Jesus said, "The poor will always be among us." I believe real Christianity notices the poor, the overlooked, the outcast and the down-and-out.

We who are Christian and we who lead Christian churches should be the leading agents for caring for the poor. No question.

The point of this post is not to confuse our society, or even Christianity, with government.

They are not the same.

Christiane said...

thank you for responding, WADE

I can agree that 'government' has certainly not looked with favor on the plight of the poor in our country,
but because of the lobbying in Washington, it tends to put forward the interests of those who are able to make large contributions to politicians

I still wonder how 'entitlements' can be defined best in this wealthy land of ours

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and birthday, and my love goes out to the wonderful faithful people of Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Thanks for letting me speak my thoughts, and thanks for so patiently redirecting me when I go off course. God bless!

Wade Burleson said...


If the government's goal is simply security and freedom of her citizens, then charge a flat tax for the military and federal law enforcement agencies. The question of what constitutes an entitlement only exists when entitlements exist.

Anonymous said...

"In America where government has become god, you will find you cannot worship as you please; you cannot work as you please; you cannot save as you please; you cannot give as you please; you cannot live as you please. Everything about your life as an American is becoming controlled by the god of American government."

So true, so true! I'm tempted to write this on the back of my tailgate for all to see, giving credit to you, of course. :) Ken

Wade Burleson said...


I find it so disheartening that people don't understand these principles. To me, this is a moral issue. It is not a conservative or liberal issue, but a moral one based on common sense principles.

At some point, we will return to our roots, but I'm afraid our current government must collapse.

Anonymous said...

I frankly agree, Wade. We're getting out of MD after 25+ years of running a small business here...way too oppressive. In addition to outrageous property tax, our county taxed us $1000 because the rain hits our roofs and road surface area, and runs off eventually ending up in the Chesapeake Bay.

We've boycotted the entire system of living here (building equity in real estate, etc.) and are heading to another state that is less oppressive (for now), knowing that our real citizenship is in Christ and his kingdom.

Abraham and Sarah were aliens roaming around living in tents, yet they were looking forward to the city yet to come (Heb.10:11). Ken

Kristen said...

Some questions.

When society has the ability to vote, doesn't that change in some ways the issue of who is the government?

Are the people more free when being oppressed by big business than when being oppressed by government?

If the goal is complete economic freedom, why is there so much in the Prophets about God's disgust with wealthy private citizens using their economic power to oppress the poor? Is it really only government that is capable of oppression? Is it really only government that's the problem today?

What was up with Jubilee-- that massive, national redistribution of wealth that prevented all the property and goods being amassed by the wealthy few?

Why does the Old Testament law require property owners to give a portion of their production to gleaners?

Finally, if we really believe in the sinfulness of humanity, why do we think that if they are just left alone, they will give to the less fortunate out of the goodness of their hearts?

raswhiting said...

Kristen,in large measure big, bad government enables the corruption and the abuses by some big businesses. If we have a government limited to punishing wrong-doers, there will be less big business oppression and more punishment of such crimes by the properly limited government.

Wade Burleson said...


What raswhiting said

Some of my politically liberal friends are confused (in my opinion). They think I am FOR big business running big government and controlling government's laws.


As raswhiting said, if government were limited to punishing evil doers, then the idea of kickbacks, business entitlements, etc... are mute.

Keep government simple, not complex, and keep government's purpose the security and freedom of the people and nobody has to complain about big business running government.

Lawrence Williams said...

I believe history shows the government was a lot simpler in the 1800's when the robber-barons amassed their great monopolies. Kristen is correct to point out some curbs that were in effect for Israel. It can always be said, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer".

Wade Burleson said...

Kristen and Lawrence,

I am reminded of two verses:

"The wages of the righteous are like life; income of the wicked, punishment" (Prov. 10:16).

"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).

I am not as keen as you seem to be on the idea that the income of the wealthy is forcibly taken in order to give to the poor, and do not believe it to be a judicial, logical or even biblical principle.

Hard work, contentment, and trust in God seems to be the biblical principles that apply.

Wade Burleson said...

And I do believe we Christians should be taking the LEAD in giving to the poor, but God 'loves a cheerful giver' not a forced giver.

Lawrence Williams said...

Wade, I never said anything about forcibly taking wealth from the wealthy. I only pointed out the history of the robber barons existed in a time of less government and that Kristen did quote the O.T. correctly. If my history is wrong and if Kristen is wrong in her quotes then point out the fallacies. I am not in favor of big, intrusive government, and I certainly do not care to be accused of such.

Wade Burleson said...


Please forgive me. I didn't mean to accuse. I did not communicate well.

I am pointing out Israel was a theocracy, not a democracy. Evil is a problem in every generation, and government is the sword of vengeance against the evil doer.

Again, I'm sorry for unintentionally misrepresenting what you believe.

Kristen said...

Wade, I can't help thinking of shanty towns and children picking through garbage dumps. These are avoided by SNAP, TANF, and public housing. Public safety nets are for all the people, whether they are within reach of private charities or not. I for one think that in government of the people, by the people and for the people, the people should have the power to say, "We don't want a nation where shanty towns and garbage-dump picking exist. And we will use the best means available to make sure they don't happen."

I have carefully read through the Bible and I find no commandment that government be limited only to punishing evildoers. There are passages that mention that as one of government's roles, but by no means do the passages set themselves out as definitive lists of what government should and should not be doing.

I don't think saying "Israel was a theocracy" resolves the issue that the OT Law recognized the sinfulness of man and the temptation of the wealthy to go on amassing more wealth, and addressed it through laws that put checks and boundaries on the same.

Yes, there is a huge problem when government is controlled by big business. But that is not resolved by limiting government's ability to put checks and balances on big business. Unless you are going to define "punish the evildoer" as going beyond criminal offenses to the punishment of exploitive business practices, I think your idea leads to a weak, ineffective governmental power resulting in rule by an oligarchy of the rich and powerful.

Wade Burleson said...

"I think your idea leads to a weak, ineffective governmental power resulting in rule by an oligarchy of the rich and powerful."

Kristen, that's a great point. Surprisingly, we may be saying things that are similar. I believe the rich and powerful should NOT run the government. I also believe, like you, the rich and powerful use the government to enrich themselves. However, when we speak of the two wealthiest men in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, they have pledged to give away their fortune to charities - that's what I'm talking about. The wealthy helping the poor not because government regulates it, but because kind-hearted, enterprising generous people do it.

Thanks for the dialogue!

Lawrence Williams said...

And who will be on the boards of Gates and Buffets' charities? Most likely other rich and powerful people and their families. And by creating these charities which are only required by law to give away a small percentage yearly they avoid much taxation. These types of charities will grow yearly in wealth and power. This is an example of government laws at work. I am not saying that these charity trusts are bad or good, just pointing our facts. Wade thanks for your gracious reply to a previous comment.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for your thoughtful article. It helps answer some questions which arise when I see news from your nation.

As I look on, from the other side of the world,with great concern,and wondered at what we observe happening in a country that, a long time ago, used to be an example to the rest of the world.

Our previous government was leading us down the same path which leads the population to the destination of dependence on government, rather than hard work and enterprise.

We recently voted them out of office. The new government is yet to fully show its colors.

The greatest weakness of a nation is shown when the populace continually look to government to solve our problems.

We have lost our love of freedom for which many have died when this mindset prevails.

Wade Burleson said...

Aussie John,

Well said.


Nicholas Myra said...

Nobody is being "oppressed" by "big business." The oppressor is big government.

Wade Burleson said...


That's what I've been trying to say.

Nicholas Myra said...

I agree with you. I was just responding to the tired old sentiments that some have expressed in the comments. Thanks for the post.

Kristen said...

Nobody's being oppressed by big business? Really? Is it big government that holds down wages for the rank and file worker while CEOs get huge raises?

Is it big government that lays off full-time workers with benefits and then hires them back as part-time temps with no benefits at half the wages?

Is it big government that shut down my husband's plant so that he and over 300 coworkers lost their jobs? Is the former CEO of that plant a member of big government? He's still making six figures from the jobs he shipped overseas. He doesn't care what happened to the people who worked so hard at $10 to $12 per hour so that he could rake in the profits and then lay them off.

What helped us? A government program that sent my husband back to school. Big business didn't give a rip.

I guess we're just some of those nobodies who are being oppressed by big business. Good thing we don't actually exist, right?

I used to think just like you do. And then it happened to me.

Lawrence Williams said...

Absolute power corrupts whether it is big business or government. Evidently, Wade, you believe that only big government can do wrong and never big business. See your comment to Nicholas. I do believe when James is commenting about the rich men exploiting the laborers that the term "rich" includes big business. See James 5:1-6. There is enough evil for everyone to share. Now if I misunderstood your reply to Nicholas, please forgive me and correct me.

Christiane said...

can I recommend to you some things to think about from my own tradition?

With respect, I hope this reference may help expand your outlook in ways that are also consistent with your faith as well:


Chuck Andrews said...

Big Business cannot oppress because it has no authority to coerce someone to work for them. Regardless of how little a business pays one worker or how much it pays another worker, it is the worker who is free to be employed or not by the big business.

In Matthew 20:1-16 it appears to be implied that the landowner is completely within his right to own the land and hire the workers at a price. He even has the right to pay those who worked only a few hours and those who worked all day the same wage.

Someone is offered a job with a wage, fair or not, he/she is free to take or reject the job offer. I don't know any business that guarantees a lifelong job. If a business lays off its workers, regardless of the reason, it is fully within its right to do so. If one of those laid off workers is offered a job back with the same company under new conditions, he/she is free to take or reject the job.

If a big business offers jobs that no one is willing to take then the business fails. No one is forced to work for said business. If the business has employees to provide a need in society in succeeds. It's called the "free enterprise" system. The less government is involved in this system the better it works.

Workers who want Big Government to step in and regulate (force, oppress) big business by forcing them to pay certain wages, benefits, etc. are only one step away from Big Government stepping in to force (oppress, regulate) the worker, too.

I agree, "Nobody is being "oppressed" by "big business." The oppressor is big government."

Sounds like common sense to me. But I do have a tendency to see things in a way that makes sense to me. Others may think that my common sense is non-sense.

Christiane said...

Big business DOES depend on the taxes paid by the 'little people' to support the building of America's infra-structure . . .

I think we need to examine this and the many ways that the wealthy in our country have benefited off the backs of the rest of us . . .

it's an eye-opener, and maybe not so 'clear-cut' as pundits like to be;
but it is a serious matter that has affected the GROWING income inequality of our people as American citizens.

The rights of the wealthy?
Perhaps their greatest right is to participate in the common good of our country,
as it is for us all.

We are blessed in this country. But when many children of single mothers live so sparely at the margins of that blessing
and are not secure,
then 'we, the people' have some work to do that is a national concern not just a Christian concern.

if the wealthy must be so coddled and sheilded and protected from any 'abuse' by government,
can we not also have equal compassion for the vulnerable ?

On the Day of the Lord, our actions that have passed as most 'logical' and absolutely 'legal' may also be judged as profoundly immoral in their lack of compassion
. . . this remains with us as one of Our Lord's greatest teachings in St. Matthew's Gospel

some thoughts. . .

Kristen said...

Good grief. Chuck, you would think from what you said that there were jobs a-plenty for anyone who might want them, that workers had some power to dictate terms. Not so. Unless you're in a union (the vast majority of jobs are non-union jobs) the employer dictates the terms, and the worker who wants to eat had better take the job he can get and swallow his pride. There are a hundred others who would love to take his his place if he quits.

Being "free" to reject a job offer isn't much freedom when the alternative is letting your family starve.

I'm speaking from real-life experience, not ideology. It wasn't big government that owned the banks that sold sub-prime mortgages to unsuspecting, average people who didn't understand finance and have now lost their homes. But it was the average people who suffered, and still suffer, while the bank moguls enjoy the fact that they largely got away with it. We were "lucky," in a sense. We never did make enough money to even afford one of those sub-prime mortgages. We stuck to our manufactured home in a park.

There is no compassion in the invisible hand of the unbridled free market. Only profit, gain and greed-- and poverty, lack and exploitation. What I don't get is how we Christians all got duped into buying it, hook line and sinker.

Go ahead, keep telling me my family isn't suffering, or that it's our own fault. My husband never did get a job after finishing schooling. The free market has no use for a 50-year-old man who doesn't have enough experience in the job he recently trained for, and experience that's too old to get re-hired in his old field. Sure, he's "free" to reject any job they happen to offer him. Riiight.

It's the conservatives in Congress that are keeping jobs bills that might help us, from getting passed. In that sense we are being oppressed by the government. But only in that they're allowing the oppression to continue unchecked.

Our church has helped us as far as they can, but they can't create a job for my husband. Big business could, but won't. We don't want a handout. We want a fighting chance.

So go ahead, keep blaming the victims, or telling us we don't exist. Just don't expect me to praise your Christian principles.

Kristen said...

Christina makes very good points. Big business could, I suppose, cooperate to build roads and highways, rather than having government do it-- but then us average people would probably have to pay tolls to each different owner of the highway as we move from place to place. Despite rigid ideologies, there are some things that government just does better than private business can-- and it's more than just punishing crimes.

Wade, you are able to see how the cultural understanding of marriage in Bible times affected what looks like commandments, when it comes to women's roles today. Couldn't it also be true that the cultural understanding of government in Paul's day need not have been intended as commandments for all governments for all time?

Lawrence Williams said...

Chuck, apparently, James, the apostle, did not get the message that the rich could mistreat the laborers with impunity. James 5:1-6. His message is the rich can mistreat the laborers, but they should not. You are right in that he who has the gold(power) makes the rules. In the verses you quote God can judge perfectly, man does not. Never has, never will.
I agree we have big, intrusive government. But in light of all the verses that Kristin mentioned in her first post, I am of the opinion that big, intrusive business that controls government through lobbyists and cash donations is not so good. I do not find much desirable in either group. I do find that neither group is responsible for my service to Christ for which I am thankful.

Kristen said...

PS. Yes, in many cases it is perfectly within a company's rights to oppress and exploit their workers. Just as it was, in medieval times, perfectly within a knight's rights to ride down a peasant in the street.

Just because you have a right to do something, doesn't make it right. Nor is it always a right you should have. When an imbalance of power is used by the powerful against the powerless, that's oppression. And it doesn't matter whether the power is government power, or economic power. Power is power, and oppression is oppression.

What should happen is that big business, unions and government should all be checking and balancing the power of the other. That's not happening. That's where the problem really lies, as far as I can see.

John said...

I thought your article was spot on. I would like to ask a sincere question however from any commenter. There is a lot of heat in these comments. But, what is the proposed solution to this issue? I often hear passionate arguments but I don't hear solutions.

Kristen said...

I thought I gave a solution. Business, government and unions should have ways to check and balance one another. It would be Congress's responsibility to pass laws that get rid of the system of graft and corruption we have right now, where big business is essentially buying congressmen and running the government. However, since big business IS buying congressmen and running the government, I don't see much hope for the solution to be implemented. :(

One thing that WOULD help is if people would start acknowledging that yes, there is such a thing as economic oppression, that there's more to the solution than putting more limits on the government and making it even less able to halt the rising oligarchy-- and stop treating the corporate sector as if it were infallible and untouchable. Human nature is corruptible and power corrupts.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Pastor Wade, and I agree with you.

I live in what is officially a poverty town. Some of it is due to not one but two collapsed industries.

But some of it is simply people refusing to take the work available. Scripture does indeed tell us to help the poor. I find it telling that one method was gleaning. Sitting at home and waiting for the food to magically appear wouldn't feed you. You had to get up and go glean.

It seems to me we are systematically enslaving people today. We punish those that try to earn more, and reward sloth.

Not good. Not good at all.


Anonymous said...

Kristen - am sorry to hear about your husband's situation - the loss of a job, and the inability to find anther.

You said: "Being "free" to reject a job offer isn't much freedom when the alternative is letting your family starve."

And:"The free market has no use for a 50-year-old man who doesn't have enough experience in the job he recently trained for, and experience that's too old to get re-hired in his old field. Sure, he's "free" to reject any job they happen to offer him. Riiight. "

Am I correct in thinking you've left out the idea of self-employment in the equation? ken

Kristen said...

Ken, I appreciate your kind words.

He's been trying self-employment for several years but hasn't been able to make any money. Some people just aren't cut out for self-employment.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, would encourage you not to give up on creating ways to find income. My wife and I have had a tough journey in living in one of the most expensive places in the states, all the while having chronic health issues that really put a kink in "making a living" to survive (not thrive).

It takes a lot of ingenuity, creativity, willingness to change, willingness not to white-knuckle belongings, and dependence on the Lord (praying lots...asking him to provide and lead).

Ebay and Craigslist have been extremely helpful in marketing products you might have around you (for us...chestnuts, maple syrup, items found on your local craigslist, in thrift stores, etc.).

For putting a roof over your head - we've subscribed online to the Caretaker Gazette for years and have seen housing/job offers all over the world, with many in the States.

Just remember that you and your husband/family are worth way more than the sparrows of the fields - and he takes care of them! All the best to you, ken

Wade Burleson said...


Wonderful words. Thanks.

Wade Burleson said...


Solutions are found in each individual. If Kristen and Ken were living near Enid we would hire him on the spot for building maintenance, pay his medical insurance, and have him work full-time. You guys would not earn a great deal of money and become rich, but your needs would be taken care of.

John said...

Thanks for your answer Wade. I fully agree! John

Anonymous said...

Wade, have you read this book? http://www.amazon.com/Your-Money-Life-Jesus-Wealth/dp/159752106X

I believe Jon Zens put me onto it...excellent read about some of what is being discussed.

Alexander points out we so often use the word "rich" in the sense we're looking up the ladder and qualify ourselves as outside that boundary, when in reality, we can always look down the rungs and, in some sense, see ourselves as rich.


Chuck Andrews said...

Hi Christiane, Kristen, and Lawrence

Thank you for your well thought out convictions and willingness to converse with others, including me. I really appreciate it. I agree that what I wrote was about ideology. But without ideology to give direction to methodology we become end result pragmatist. The danger of end result pragmatism is what was behind Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Ideology is what led Paine to write Common Sense.

There is a difference and separation between Society and Government just like there is a difference and separation between the Church and State. When one ideology becomes synonymous with the other then you have neither.

In what I wrote I said nothing about taxes, unemployment rate, or the seductive power of wealth to oppress. Nor did I say, “that the rich could mistreat the laborers with impunity.” I’m sure we could debate these issues until the cows come home without changing one thing.

Kristen, your story and the hurt you feel broke my heart. I do not only sympathize with you and your husband but I empathize with you. I speak not from abundance but from need. My wife and I are a breath away from losing our home of 20 years due to severe medical disability and without any government assistance available. No Disability. No Medicaid. No Social Security. No Mortgage Assistance. But our testimony is that without God’s people, family and friends, we would have already lost everything. My encouragement to myself, to you, and to others who find themselves in a similar place, no matter what has happened God is sovereign and He Himself is our provision. We may be the victim of something very real that has caused us very real hurts and hardships but, no matter what, I refuse to live in the mentality of a victim for I am a VICTOR in Christ. He has so ordered my steps and I will live in this desert with praise and trust in Him.

Are there solutions to our struggles and differences? I had written a lengthy response to that question but decided not to put it out there because I think Wade is correct. The solution is in each individual doing everything they can do to make this a better America.

May God bring healing and health to our individual hurts as well as our Nation.

Kristen said...

The kind words here are very appreciated, and I'm very sorry, Chuck, to hear of your difficulties. Of course, the point I was trying to raise was not so much about any individual's problems as about showing evidence that private-sector oppression does in fact exist and is very real. And with regards to Thomas Paine, I cannot help but notice that there was a big elephant in the room in his day with regards to oppression by Society, not Government-- that is, slavery. He may have been unable or unwilling to address this because it would have alienated the readership he was trying to persuade-- but worker exploitation and oppression by non-government entities was actually a huge issue in his day, and there was every reason why slaveholders would have wanted the government to stay out their free practice of what we now consider a crime against humanity.

The Founding Fathers were great men, but they were very human, and at times, as all humans, could be very blind to what was right in front of their eyes.

Micah 2:2 and Isaiah 5:8 show God's anger specifically with the non-governmental powerful who exploit the common person. Also check out Ezekiel 22:29 and Amos 5:11-12. Malachi 3:5 is one of the passage that speaks straight to private employers who "oppress the hired worker in their wages." God also has several things to say about privately wealthy people in collusion with government to gain wealth through oppression, such as in Micah 7:3 - “Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire--they all conspire together.”

The Bible certainly supports the existence of private, non-government oppression, and it isn't something that just happened in Bible times. Jubilee was supposed to help correct some of these issues, but one of God's big beefs with Israel was that they ignored Jubilee, both the seven-year small ones and the 50-year big ones.

Today really isn't all that different. We don't have Jubilee, but we do have wage-and-hour laws, child labor laws and other protections. However, there are still many ways in which private sector oppression not only still happens, but is quite legal. And it's in the best interests of powerful private citizens to make sure it stays that way.

Chuck Andrews said...

Kristen, if you would be willing can you give me some clarification so that I might better understand what you are saying? Please understand that I’m not trying to discredit “that private-sector oppression does in fact exist and is very real.” I am trying to understand where it is that you disagree with Wade’s post.

It appears to me that you are equating private-sector oppression to that of slavery. Am I correct in that you are drawing a comparison between todays employer-employee relationship to the owner-slave relationship of America’s past?

Also, are you saying that you think Government should step into private-sector businesses with more regulations, laws, and taxes so as to force a more job security environment and income equality between owners, managers, and employees?

Finally, are you of the belief that Big Business is to blame more than Government for the economic distress of our society?

Thank you.

Kristen said...


First of all, it must be understood that everything I have said was intended as a response to this one comment which you expressed yourself in agreement with:
I agree, "Nobody is being "oppressed" by "big business." The oppressor is big government."

I found it outrageous, in light of my knowledge of history and my own personal experience, that anyone could say big-business oppression did not exist. So in light of that narrow focus of my points, with regards to your recent questions, here are some short answers:

I am not "equating" private-sector oppression to slavery, but simply noting that slavery is a form of private-sector oppression: probably the most extreme form. Therefore, the idea that private-sector oppression is impossible because of the nature of the private sector, is simply wrong. Maybe that's not what you meant. But that's what it sounded like you were saying.

I am not drawing a comparison between today's employee-employer relations and that of owner-slave. However, I am saying that to insist there is no such thing as private-sector oppression just doesn't make sense, and that if Thomas Paine said that (I don't recall; I read portions of Common Sense in both high school and college, but that was a long time ago), he was simply being blind to the private-sector oppression that was right in front of his eyes.

Third, I am not sure what exactly is the right solution to the current extreme disparity between owners and employees. But in light of the fact that often the average worker does not in any real sense receive what the Bible calls "the fruit of his labor" in terms of a fair share of the profits he helped earn, that wages are stagnant while CEOs earn 200 times what their average employee earns, that corporations can shut down plants and ship jobs overseas without reasonably sharing the responsibility for the lost tax revenue that they have cost the country by laying off all those workers-- yes, there probably should be better laws. In other words, checks and balances that prevent the wealth of the nation from being amassed in the hands of a very few at the expense of the rank-and-file who worked hard for fruits of their own labor that they will never taste.

Here is a fairly neutral, unbiased account of why CEO income has risen so drastically:

Why Do CEOs Make So Much Money?

Perhaps some kind of common-sense limitation on how large a stock option a CEO can earn, and/or a requirement that workers also have an opportunity for stock options in addition to wages, would help. But I do not think either the writers of the Bible nor the Founding Fathers anticipated the Industrial Revolution and the nature of modern finance or corporate business. The words of the Prophets that I have quoted appear to be against practices where a few at the top of the heap reap what all the little people who work for them have sown.

Finally, I think Big Business and Government are currently in collaboration to enrich themselves at the expense of the common person. Which is more to blame, I'm not sure. But what I'm really objecting to is a vilification of government while giving a free pass to the private sector, or a mindset that says the private sector is by its very nature "good" while government is by its very nature "evil." I find this contradictory to the biblical teaching that every endeavor of humanity is tainted by sin. Being both human and sinful, both government and business are capable of both corruption and nobility. The "Invisible Hand" of capitalism is of humanity, and is therefore NOT inherently good.

In short, I feel that denial of oppression by the private sector is a way of silencing and blaming those who are experiencing real harm.

Chuck Andrews said...


The Bible assumes the structure of governments in its cultural milieu (from Old Testament through New Testament) was either Monarchy or Totalitarian. What the author of Scripture was concerned with seems to be the aspect of abuse of position, power, and control leading to oppression. Yet, not only is the scripture concerned with the oppressed it is also concerned with the integrity of the slave. When it comes to the New Covenant, its concern is, that the character of Christ be demonstrated. It portrays the reality of the culture that, in fact, there where followers of Christ who were both slaves and masters and because of Christ their relationship with each other was transformed. (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-4:1; 1 Tim 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18-20) If man has no other kind of freedom, at least, he has the freedom to respond appropriately. One thing for certain is that the Scriptures do not point toward Government as the solution to Society’s problems but toward the Gospel as the solution.

Big Government has placed so much oppression on new business start-ups that they find it very difficult to survive the start up. There is a good example in Oklahoma of how successful competition has helped employees and society, Chesapeake Energy Corporation. I’m sure it is not perfect but, since its founding in 1989, it offered job packages that were better than a lot of its competitors and people lined up to be hired. Have you never met a business owner who is trying to do what is right by his/her employees? How about Big Businesses that provide significant salary packages, health care and life insurance, 401(k), saving incentives, and other perks for employees? In some cases, if Big Government wasn’t taxing and regulating so much of the profit, business would have more to give to their employees. Overall, if Government stays the course of the ideology proclaimed in Paine’s Common Sense, then Society is free to initiate its own course corrections through the free enterprise system.

When Big Business disappoints I do not discount the problem of greed at the top nor do I discount the devastation of envy at the bottom. Still, those problems are not Big Business failure they are personal character failures. With greed at the top we end up with the Enron Corp. of the 1990s. With envy at the bottom we see that the rise of employee theft is astronomical. In 2012 US Companies lost $50 billion to employee theft and 33% of business bankruptcies were caused by employee theft. Government can punish the wrongdoers but it cannot correct a culture’s character problems. That can only be corrected by Society. To be a part of the free enterprise system it takes a willingness to work hard, courage to create the future, and faith to risk it all.

Interesting are the words of the Israelites to Samuel in their demand for a king, “Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”” (1 Sa 8:19–20) Here is a Society that wants Government to be their savior. When Government accepts that invitation and assumes that role it has become BIG Government and the obvious distinction between Society and Government is blurred if not lost all together. Has our culture become so lackadaisical and lackluster that all we want is for Government to determine for us what is right and wrong, establish our worth, and fight our battles?

I am sure we will continue to disagree on this; so, I thank you for your clarifications in answering my questions. I hope you do not presume it rude of me to clarify my understanding. Maybe between the two of us others will find help. I assure you, although I do not feel that the private sector can oppress in a truly free enterprise system without Government encroachment, I in no way am indicating “silencing and blaming those who are experiencing real harm.”

Anonymous said...

"The opinions I have advanced ... are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God." Thomas Paine

I wouldn't exactly be advising people to pay attention to Thomas Paine unless you're prepared for them to follow all of it.

Chuck Andrews said...

Dear Anonymous

You wrote, "I wouldn't exactly be advising people to pay attention to Thomas Paine unless you're prepared for them to follow all of it."

If fallacy in one area equals fallacy in all areas then no one would be right in any area.